Phyllis Wood and Rhiannan Pierce obtained a statutory marriage Friday thanks to a complaint county clerk, Bill Knowles. (Photo TV12)

Phyllis Wood and Rhiannan Pierce obtained a statutory marriage Friday thanks to a complaint county clerk, Bill Knowles. (Photo TV12)

By David Tulis

Hamilton County clerk Bill Knowles capitulated Friday after the federal high court issued an opinion overturning marriage and creating gay marriage as a national standard. Had God ordained Mr. Knowles to be a man of Christian conviction and constitutional courage, He would have fortified Mr. Knowles’ spirit and given him boldness to publish Friday a news release such as this one:

My defense of office in upholding state law

My oath of office forbids me to license two men to marry, or two women to marry each other, or to record any such union, for such would be perjury. My fear of God in my oath forbids me to offend Him or the people of the county whom I represent.

I swear as your clerk to uphold our Tennessee constitution and all state laws, our covenant documents. These declare marriage as between one man and one woman. In having amended our constitution in 2006, the people and their government declare as true, fitting and good that provision for mankind God has given us in His revealed will — namely that of marriage.

You ask how I dare today contradict the federal supreme court in Washington. I have a duty to interpret the constitution and to abide by it — as do those judges. My oath is more compelling to me than their opinion and the opinions of gay activists who have taken paperwork from the high court, presented it to me and demanded that I violate my public trust and redefine marriage in our county. It is said supreme court rulings become law. Maybe. In the republic in which I grew up, law comes from congresses and general assemblies. Judges opine; assemblies legislate.

My oath to uphold our constitution binds my hands as well as my conscience; it binds my office and all the wonderful people who work under me in the clerk’s office. My duty is clear, despite what important people say about gay rights and the redefinition of marriage. I joyfully affirm that marriage is as God declares it. I earnestly refuse to doublecross my oath.

Perjury is a crime. Perjury is the declaring as true something that I know to be false. I am confident that if I record anything as true that I know to be false, I am a perjurer and have violated our law. I refuse to put myself in that position, having been elected by members of the public. You place your confidence in me to uphold the law and record only true facts, whether car certificates of title or marriages.

I refuse to marry so-called gay couples because that would be licensing and recording a blatant lie. That would jeopardize not only the people involved, who want official affirmation of intended sinful acts, but would also jeopardize me, the clerk, who enables them to receive this recognition as being married. Of course, I refuse to suborn perjury from my staff.

I serve as clerk with a clear conscience, even though sometimes my range of duties include tasks that make me uncomfortable. For example, I think liquor is a ruin of many families and an evil temptation. But I license liquor stores as part of my job, realizing that alcohol is a legal substance and my office is greater than my person or personal beliefs.

But I refuse to marry gay couples because I don’t want to get out ahead of the people. If Tennesseans think a federal appeals court opinion is law, let them amend the constitution and eliminate the Tennessee Code Annotated statute that so offends our gay friends. I decline, out of respect to members of the public, to leap out ahead of them and change a state law all by myself. I refuse, out of love for the people who take the trouble to vote, to delete by fiat these honorable provisions of state law. I think they’d be wrong to undo our marriage laws. But it is their prerogative, and I await their verdict at the ballot box. My action today intends no unkindness to anyone; my impulse is wholly democratic.

As your county clerk, I stand here, free in my conscience, but starkly alone in this office. You, as I, find these times bewildering. I have agonized over our country’s moral decay and its acceptance of perversion and idolatry.

Today I ask the support of the people of our county, and the protection of Sheriff Jim Hammond, of my office against any who would attempt to interfere with me and my dedicated staff. Yes, peril is all about, and the days sure look dark.

Perhaps the people of this county want me to ignore my oath and ignore my duty — and to help redefine marriage. But unless I am convinced by a change in our law and by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded that my conscience is no longer bound by my vows of office to our constitution, unless I can be convinced that it is safe for a Christian to act against his conscience, here I stand — if alone, so be it. I can do nothing else; may God help me.

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